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Ky. Gov. Signs Mandatory Counseling Measure; State Senate Approves Bill Targeting Planned Parenthood

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) on Tuesday signed into law an amended bill (SB 4) that would add requirements to a state law requiring women to undergo mandatory counseling prior to receiving abortion care, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports.

The law is scheduled to take effect in July (Brammer, Lexington Herald-Leader, 2/2).

Background

Under current state law, a licensed nurse, physician, physician assistant or social worker must tell women at least 24 hours prior to an abortion about the procedure's risks and abortion alternatives. The state allows the mandatory counseling to be provided over the phone.

Last month, the state Senate voted 32-5 to approve a version of SB 4 that would have required women to undergo the counseling in person. Later in January, conservative lawmakers in the state House held a procedural vote in an effort to force a vote on the Senate-passed version. However, the procedural vote failed.

Last week, the state House passed an amended version of the bill that would require physicians or a physician designee to discuss the procedure's risks and alternatives with women in person or via video chat at least 24 hours before the procedure. Physicians would still be permitted to authorize a licensed nurse, physician assistant or social worker to deliver the message on their behalf. After the state Senate approved the amended bill earlier this week, it headed to Bevin for his signature (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/2).

Senate Approves Bill Aiming To Defund Planned Parenthood

In related news, shortly after Bevin signed SB 4 into law, the state Senate voted 33-5 to approve a bill (SB 7) that aims to defund Planned Parenthood, AP/ABC News reports.

The bill now moves to the state House (Schreiner, AP/ABC News, 2/2).

Background

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services said the state received $5.4 million in Title X funds. The state allocates Title X funds among county health departments to provide low-income patients access to contraception, screenings for breast and cervical cancer, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and testing and counseling services for pregnancy, among other services. Title X funding is not used to cover abortion care.

According to KCHFS spokesperson Jill Midkiff, local health departments in Fayette and Jefferson counties contracted with nearby Planned Parenthood clinics to use the funding for Title X services. In the last fiscal year, the Planned Parenthood clinics in Lexington and Louisville received $331,309 in Title X funds.

Under the defunding measure, sponsored by state Sen. Max Wise (R), the state would allocate funding for family planning services via a three-tiered system. Public health departments would be the top funding priority, followed by private health care facilities that offer comprehensive primary and preventive care. Although the measure does not explicitly ban funding for Planned Parenthood, it would relegate the organization to the third tier, where it would receive only remaining funds (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/27).

Planned Parenthood Responds

Planned Parenthood criticized the bill, arguing it penalizes providers who share information with patients about abortion care.

Tamarra Wieder, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, said, "Providers must be able to talk to their patients about all services available to them," noting, "Gag rules hurt patients and tie the hands of providers" (AP/ABC News, 2/2).